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Triple Threat To Chelsea Galleries — And Artists

Chelsea, meet Cork Street. Just as that London gallery district is under threat from developers, Chelsea, too, is having its difficulties this winter. And not a double whammy, but a triple whammy.

First, Sandy hit last fall. Many galleries have cleaned up and are back in business, but many also took hits to their inventory. Where works could be salvaged, there were conservation costs.

All along, partly because of the success of the High Line, developers have had their eyes on properties down there, and many of those who haven’t built already are planning to do so. They’re building commercial and residental buildings. 

Now, as Bloomberg recently reported, rents are soaring, forcing many dealers who don’t own their building to consider moving out. Magdalena Sawon, of Postmasters Gallery, says she is headed back downtown 15 years after leaving Soho — because her rent is about to double. “The mid-range galleries are going to just vanish from Chelsea,” she told Bloomberg, adding “that ‘anything radical or experimental’ will become rarer as dealers seek to cover expenses by staging more-predictable shows that do well commercially.”

This post is about more than real estate — as we’ve been seeing, the mega-dealers are getting bigger and the smaller and mid-sized dealers who help emerging and mid-list artists are getting squeezed out.

Those that do not close will go to the Lower East Side and maybe to Brooklyn (if that’s still cheaper). I happen to think that have one big gallery district is better than a lot of smaller ones, but that doesn’t look like it’s happening.




  1. Typical pattern. I’ve seen it happen in NYC at least twice in my lifetime. At least once when I was an artist living and working in NYC. In fact, it is the gentrification pattern that happens across the nation. It is a mixed blessing for artists-a reset for lack of a better term. There will be pain. Those who are serious will continue to do serious work with or without gallery/marketplace complex.

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